Greek Orthodox celebrate Jan. 1; Patriarch thanks govt
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew thanked the
Turkish government yesterday for granting
permission for religious services to be held at
the Church of St. Nicholas in Demre this year.
Reviewing the year 2007 at a New Year's reception
after a religious service at the Fener Greek
Patriarchate, Patriarch Bartholomew listed the
Ministry of Culture's permission for religious
services to be held at the Church of St. Nicholas
among the important events of the year for Orthodox Christians.
The Church of St. Nicholas in ancient Myra --
modern Demre -- near the city of Antalya is a
ruined Byzantine church containing the tomb of
St. Nicholas of Myra, the inspiration for the
Santa Claus figure, as well as many fine mosaics and murals.
The Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism
allocated YTL 40,000 for restoration on the
Church of St. Nicholas following a visit to the
church by Culture and Tourism Minister Ertug(rul Günay on Oct. 29.
The urgent work includes repairs on the roof, the
building of a path to protect the marble at the
entrance, repair of the pumps that remove
rainwater and the protection of the church's
paintings from sunlight and humidity. While the
urgent restoration is scheduled to be completed
in a short period of time, planning for the long-term projects will continue.
Bartholomew said he had been to Ankara twice in
2007 to discuss the Greek Orthodox community's problems with Turkish officials.
The Greek Orthodox community has been seeking
permission to hold religious services in some
remote areas of the country. The Orthodox
community has come under intense pressure from
Turkish nationalist elements. The patriarchal
seminary of Halki in the Princes' Islands has
been closed on government orders since 1971.
Patriarch Bartholomew also mentioned efforts to
draw attention to the world's environmental
problems. As part of the Religion, Science and
the Environment (RSE) movement -- originally
conceived in 1988 on the Isle of Patmos at a
meeting of environmental and religious leaders --
Patriarch Bartholomew attended the 2007 Arctic
Symposium in Greenland Sept. 6-13.
The patriarch has gained a reputation as a
prominent environmentalist, putting the support
of the Patriarchate behind various international
environmental causes. This has earned him the
nicknames "the Green Patriarch" and "the Green
Pope" in addition to various awards.
Among the significant events of the last year the
patriarch listed his address in January to the
Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly on the
necessity of interfaith dialogue. In that speech
Bartholomew had stressed the importance of dialogue with the Muslim world.
"As we say in Turkey, we have with our Muslim
brothers not only an academic dialogue but that
of living together side-by-side," he had said in his Jan. 22 speech last year.
YONCA POYRAZ DOG(AN I.STANBUL